Home » Blog » Self-Actualization: What does Maslow’s Theory Says?

Everyone’s a little different when it comes to human conduct, which is what makes a person distinctive. Regardless of how different people’s behaviours are, they are all motivated or triggered by something. So, what precisely motivates them, and why do you and others act the way you do in specific situations?

To answer that, you must first comprehend the requirements that a person is attempting to meet, which are manifested in their behaviour. While it may appear confusing, there is a philosophy behind it all. We dream of a happy life and a bright future, which comes from meeting basic survival necessities. Our needs are different. We aspire for different lives. How can one theory fit us all? Do you have any inquiries pertaining to the needs hierarchy?

According to psychologist Abraham Maslow’s idea of self actualization, people are motivated to reach their full potential in life. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which places self actualization at the top of a hierarchy above four “lower” wants, is commonly used to explain self actualization. 

How effectively does this theory apply in a person’s life, at job, or simply for motivation? Everything you need to know about Maslow’s Theory of Needs is right here.

The Origin of Maslow’s Theory of Self Actualization

Psychoanalysis and behaviourism were prevalent in the field of psychology throughout the mid-twentieth century. These two viewpoints shared a general idea that humans are driven by factors beyond their control, notwithstanding their differences. As a result of this assumption, a new perspective known as humanistic psychology emerged. The humanists aimed to provide a more hopeful, proactive view of human endeavour.

This humanistic perspective gave rise to Maslow’s theory of self-actualization. 

According to humanistic psychologists, persons are motivated by higher wants, particularly the desire to fulfil oneself. Maslow established his theory by observing mentally well persons, in contrast to psychoanalysts and behaviourists who concentrated on psychological issues. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a psychological motivational theory that consists of a five-tier model of human wants, which is sometimes shown as hierarchical tiers within a pyramid.

Maslow’s hierarchy describes human behaviour in terms of basic survival and growth requirements. These requirements, or needs, are categorised based on their importance for survival and ability to motivate the individual. The most fundamental physical needs, like food, water, and oxygen, are at the bottom of the need hierarchy. Individuals’ basic needs must be met before they can focus on other, more essential requirements. The needs of those at the top of the hierarchy are more concerned with psychological well-being and growth than with physical survival. People are more impacted by formal education and life experiences, and these demands have less ability to motivate them. The hierarchy of needs that results is frequently portrayed as a pyramid, with physical survival needs at the bottom and self-actualization needs at the top.

In 1943, he published a paper titled “A Notion of Human Motivation,” and later in his book Motivation and Personality, he expanded on this theory. In both, he explained how he believed those five requirements played a key part in influencing people’s actions. He also advocated that those human requirements be structured into a pyramid-like hierarchy. According to him, the hierarchy runs from basic requirements at the bottom to the most complicated demands at the top, and that one cannot progress from one level to the next until the needs have been met.

Why is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs important?

The importance of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can be attributed to a number of factors. The first is that it demonstrates that everyone is the same. Everyone has the same five wants in life that they attempt to meet, regardless of ethnicity, background, where they reside, or what they do for a living.

Second, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is significant because it can be a useful resource if you are aware that something in your life is depressing you but are unsure what it is. You can go over the list of needs and figure out what you’re missing in your life right now.

The third reason Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is essential is that it may assist you in any form of leadership function, such as a manager role, by allowing you to use it to ensure that your employees’ needs are met.

As a result, even Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can assist us in comprehending people’s actions. In a nutshell, it clarifies why they do what they do.

If a person does not meet the needs in Maslow’s theory, there are consequences, according to him. The key one is that if you don’t meet a lower-level set of wants first, you won’t be able to progress up the pyramid to meet the next higher-level set of requirements on your route to self-actualization.

In addition to not being able to rise up the hierarchy, Maslow claims that not having one’s needs met at certain stages can have a negative impact on one’s well-being. For example, if a person’s safety needs aren’t addressed, they may be injured or suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of their lack of safety.

What is the order of Maslow’s hierarchy of self actualization needs?

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of self-actualization requirements, all humans have the same types of needs, which are arranged in a hierarchy. This hierarchy, in broad terms, ranges from the most fundamental necessities for survival to a sense of personal fulfilment and purpose in life.

The hierarchy is significant because it serves as a motivating ladder. This indicates that before individuals are driven to meet the demands of the next level up the pyramid, they must have thoroughly addressed their present level’s needs. To put it another way, someone who is trying to make ends meet will prioritise this over discovering their genuine life’s purpose.

People are motivated to meet particular needs, according to Maslow (1943, 1954), and some needs take precedence over others.

Physical survival is our most basic necessity, and it will be the driving force behind our actions. When that level is completed, we are motivated to move on to the next level, and so on.

The inadequate or base requirements are at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which is placed in a pyramid pattern, with the growth needs at the top. Only until the core requirements are addressed can someone progress up the pyramid; motivation remains the driving factor at all levels. The five hierarchical needs in Maslow’s Theory of Self Actualization Needs are as follows.


Physical survival is our most basic need, which is why biological needs are more important than everything else. It involves, among other things, food, clothing, shelter, sleep, and overall health. You can progress to the higher levels of the pyramid if these basic physiological and primary needs have been addressed.


Your needs get more complex once your basic necessities are addressed. Security, safety, and protection become required at the second level. People desire to have control over their lives and be prepared for any unexpected dangers. Emotional stability, protection from crimes and injury, financial security, and health security are all important aspects of safety. Finding a job or moving to a gated community, for example, can make you feel safe and secure.


This is the final deficiency or basic requirement. You relate to interpersonal interaction and seek emotional connections in this social layer of requirements. Emotional and physical closeness, friendships and familial ties, and even business interactions are all examples of such requirements. The desire for social interaction and interpersonal ties are powerful motivators. Friendship, trust, acceptance, and intimacy control this stage.


Self-esteem and self-respect are important at this period. As you engage and develop your social networks, the demand for gratitude and respect becomes more crucial. You want others to notice your efforts and feel proud, accomplished, and deserving of your efforts.

Academic achievements, employment chances, and athletic engagement are some of the most common instances of esteem needs. This stage is divided into two components under Maslow’s Need Theory: self-esteem (e.g., independence) and respect from others (e.g., social prestige).


In Maslow’s Hierarchy Theory, this is the highest level or ultimate objective. Self-actualization entails being the best version of oneself. It refers to reaching your full potential as an individual. As you fully utilise your talents, abilities, and potential, you’ve accomplished what you set out to do. People who are self-actualizing have a high level of self-awareness and do not listen to what others have to say. They have a long list of objectives to meet and a pool of talent to tap into. Skill development, education, and broadening your knowledge base and skill set are all important aspects of self-actualization.

What is Self Actualization?

Self actualization, according to Maslow, is the ability to become the best version of oneself. “This inclination could be expressed as the drive to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming,” Maslow explained.

Of course, we each have our own set of values, desires, and abilities. As a result, various people will experience self-actualization in different ways. One person may achieve self-actualization through artistic expression, whereas another may do it by becoming a parent or creating new technology.

Due to the difficulties of meeting the four lower needs, Maslow predicted that only a small percentage of people would be able to achieve self-actualization, or that they would only be able to do so in a limited way. He claimed that persons who are able to self-actualize have certain features in common. These people were dubbed “self actualizers” by him. 

Self actualizers, according to Maslow, have the ability to have peak experiences, or times of joy and transcendence. Peak experiences can happen to anyone, although self actualizers have them more frequently. Self-actualizers, according to Maslow, are extremely creative, autonomous, objective, concerned about humanity, and accepting of themselves and others.

Maslow contended that some people are simply not motivated to self actualize. He made this point by differentiating between deficiency needs, or D-needs, which encompass the four lower needs in his hierarchy, and being needs, or B-needs. Maslow said that D-needs come from external sources, while B-needs come from within the individual. According to Maslow, self actualizers are more motivated to pursue B-needs than non-self actualizers.

Does All Human Needs Fit in The Maslow’s Theory?

Other wants that did not fit into Maslow’s hierarchy were described. Cognitive demands, such as curiosity and scientific interest, as well as aesthetic needs, such as the desire for beauty and order, were among them. Maslow recognised a set of requirements that go beyond self-actualization as he observed self-actualizing people. These are known as B-values or transcendence requirements, according to him. They all pertain to the desire to make a positive difference in the world and to find more meaning in life. Despite the fact that transcendence wants are frequently defined as being someplace beyond the desire for self-actualization, they are not included in most Maslow’s needs hierarchy formulations. Despite the fact that Maslow framed human needs as a hierarchy, he allowed for several deviations from the precise order of his hierarchy.

He claimed that lower wants must be met to allow a person to focus on higher needs, but that total fulfilment of a need may not be attainable or required. Most people, he said, would display a range of levels of need fulfilment at any one time. For instance, a person might be 85 percent pleased with physiological needs, 60 percent happy with safety needs, 45 percent satisfied with love and belongingness needs, and so on. Maslow also noted instances in which lower needs are sacrificed in favour of higher needs, such as when an artist forgoes comfort and security in order to pursue aesthetic goals, or when a student puts off looking for a romantic partner in order to achieve high grades and gain acceptance into a prestigious graduate programme. Maslow, on the other hand, believed that these deviations from a rigorous hierarchy of needs were beneficial.

How Do You Become Self Actualized?

There are a few things you may do to help you get closer to realising your full potential.

Recognize your personal values. It’s critical that you take the time to figure out what matters most to you. It’s easy to feel aimless and unsure of yourself if you don’t have this insight.

Play a game of curiosity. Observe your patterns of conduct and try to figure out where they come from and whether they are helping you or hindering you. Take note of how others view you and look into it.

“Growth may be hard, and many people prefer to stay in their safe, secure position in the hierarchy because they are terrified of what would happen if they challenge themselves and venture out.” Accept the challenges and perceive them as possibilities for growth.

After an individual’s most fundamental wants for survival have been addressed, cravings for safety and affection follow, followed by esteem needs. A person may begin to self actualize if their esteem needs, such as self-confidence and self-respect, have been addressed. The hierarchy also acts as a developmental model, with babies beginning at the bottom and seeking to obtain food, water, and shelter.

The following are examples of self-actualization requirements:

  • Acceptance of information
  • The absence of prejudice
  • Problem-solving ability
  • Moral sensibility
  • Creativity
  • Innovation

When these needs are addressed, a person may be more willing to engage in the self-actualization process.

Characteristics of Self Actualized People

Although we are all theoretically capable of self-actualization, the majority of us will not, or only to a limited extent, achieve so. Only two percent of humans, according to Maslow (1970), will achieve self-actualization.

He was particularly intrigued by the traits of those who, in his opinion, had realised their full potential as individuals.

Maslow (1970) established 15 qualities of a self-actualized person after analysing 18 people he deemed to be self-actualized, including Abraham Lincoln and Albert Einstein.

  1. They have a good sense of reality and can deal with ambiguity;
  1. Accept oneself as well as others for who they are.
  1. Unpredictable in thought and action;
  1. Problem-focused (rather than self-centered);
  1. Weird sense of humour;
  1. Capable of objective observation of life;
  1. Extremely imaginative;
  1. Resistant to cultural conditioning, but not purposefully so;
  1. Concerned about humanity’s well-being;
  1. Able to appreciate basic life experiences deeply;
  1. Develop strong and fulfilling interpersonal ties with a select group of people;
  1. Experiential highs;
  1. The requirement for privacy;
  2. Democratic viewpoints;
  3. High moral and ethical standards

Examples of Self Actualized Person

Before we look at examples of self-actualized people, it’s important to understand what makes someone self-actualized.

(a) Experiencing life fully immersed and focused;

(a) Experimenting with fresh ideas rather than sticking to tried-and-true methods;

(c) When analysing experiences, listening to your own feelings rather than the voice of tradition, authority, or the majority;

(d) Being honest and avoiding deception 

(e) Expecting to be unpopular if your viewpoint differs from that of the majority;

f) Accepting responsibility and putting in long hours;

(g) Trying to figure out what your defences are and having the fortitude to let go of them.

The traits of a self-actualized individual, as well as the activities that lead to self-actualization, are listed above. Despite the fact that everyone achieves self-actualization in their own unique way, they all have some attributes.

It is not required to exhibit all 15 characteristics in order to become self-actualized, and not only self-actualized individuals will do so.

Maslow did not associate perfection with self-actualization. It does not make a person flawless. Self-actualization simply means realising one’s full potential. As a result, someone can be foolish, wasteful, vain, and unpleasant yet still achieve self-actualization. Self-actualization is achieved by less than 2% of the population.

How People Progress Through the Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow proposed that satisfying these requirements necessitated a number of conditions. Possessing freedom of speech and expression, or living in a just and fair society, for example, aren’t explicitly addressed in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but Maslow believed that having these things makes it simpler for people to meet their needs.

Maslow also felt that we had a desire to learn new information and get a greater understanding of the world around us, in addition to these basic requirements. This is partly because learning more about our surroundings helps us meet other wants; for example, learning more about the world can make us feel safer, and acquiring a greater understanding of a topic that one is passionate about can help one achieve self-actualization. Maslow, on the other hand, believed that the need to comprehend the world around us is an innate need.

Despite the fact that Maslow organised his needs in a hierarchy, he recognised that addressing each need is not an all-or-nothing proposition. As a result, people do not need to entirely satisfy one need before moving on to the next in the hierarchy.

According to Maslow, most people have each of their wants partially met at any one time, and the requirements lower on the hierarchy are often the ones toward which people have made the most progress.

Maslow also pointed out that one behaviour could satisfy two or more wants. Sharing a meal with someone, for example, satisfies the physiological need for nourishment while also satisfying the urge to belong. Working as a paid caregiver can also bring a sense of social connection and purpose, in addition to providing revenue (which allows them to pay for food and shelter).

Application of Maslow’s Theory in A Workplace

Respectful treatment of employees is a hallmark of successful businesses. Individuals will only put their best foot forward if they feel heard, appreciated, and empowered. Leaders and managers are critical in empowering people to be the best versions of themselves. Because of their closeness and interaction with the team, they are in charge of reacting to a variety of demands and expectations.

Many of these needs can be met by your employer, but you must be conscious of how your needs affect your overall effectiveness in particular roles.

To achieve the highest level of this motivating theory in the workplace, you must be self actualized, which means you must recognise your skills, abilities, and what you can handle. Individuals who have attained the top level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs make up a healthy and engaged workforce.

The capacity to recognise your needs and ensure that they are met in a favourable way can improve your chances of success. Your attitude may impact people around you in the workplace when you feel comfortable, supported, a sense of belonging, and self-actualized. Because engagement and motivation are typically team-based attitudes, a group of people who believe their needs are being met can help to build a more positive, engaging workplace culture.

According to Maslow’s theory, an employee’s initial focus should be on the lower order needs of physiology and security.

In general, a person starting a job will be concerned about physiological demands such as enough pay and consistent income, as well as security needs such as benefits and a safe workplace. We all desire a decent pay to support our families and to work in a stable atmosphere.

Employees whose basic needs have not been addressed will make decisions about their jobs based on factors such as compensation, safety, and stability. When these requirements are no longer supplied or threatened, employees will revert to servicing their lowest level needs.

It’s critical to consider whether your current job satisfies your needs. Keep your needs high on your priority list since they are significant and useful. You can also seek ways to make adjustments in your professional life in order to create a more positive and engaging work environment.

Here are some examples of how leaders may watch out for their staff and use Maslow’s Theory of Motivation in the workplace.

  1. Recognize hard work and excellent performance.
  2. Encourage team members to speak up during meetings.
  3. Provide constructive criticism.
  4. Encourage your employees to participate in training or skill development programmes.
  5. Before assigning projects, determine your working and learning styles.
  6. Avoid micromanaging by delegating responsibilities.
  7. Ensure a pleasant working environment and job stability.
  8. Be open and transparent, i.e., have an open-door policy.
  9. Employees should be given challenging work to break up the routine.
  10. Be receptive to new ideas, recommendations, and points of view.

Only when you recognise individual and team needs as managers and leaders can you truly drive your team to success. You create an environment where everyone strives to be their best self. When a group has a clear purpose and goals, they know how to combine their skills and efforts more effectively. When it comes to effective leadership and teamwork, it’s safe to say that Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs Theory is your guiding light.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is self-actualization?

Self-actualization is usually explained using Maslow’s hierarchy of requirements, which positions self-actualization at the top of a hierarchy above four “lower” demands. This propensity might be described as a desire to become a better version of oneself, to become whatever one is capable of becoming.

What is the importance of self-actualization needs?

A variety of things contribute to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs’ relevance. The first is that it illustrates how similar everyone is. Regardless of nationality, background, where they live, or what they do for a livelihood, everyone has the same five desires in life that they strive to fulfill. Second, if you are conscious that something in your life is depressing you, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can be a beneficial resource.

What is the order of Maslow’s hierarchy of self-actualization needs?

The order of Maslow’s hierarchy of self-actualization needs are as follows: 

physiological needs, 

safety needs, 

love and belonging needs, 

esteem needs, 

and self-actualization needs

Where did Maslow’s theory of self-actualization have its origin?

Throughout the mid-twentieth century, psychoanalysis and behaviourism were popular in the area of psychology. A new perspective known as humanistic psychology arose as a result of this premise. The goal of the humanists was to present a more optimistic and proactive picture of human endeavour. Maslow’s philosophy of self-actualization arose from this humanistic perspective.

Give an example of a self-actualized person?

The characteristics of a self-actualized person, as well as the activities that lead to it. Regardless of how each person achieves self-actualization, they all share some characteristics. It is not necessary to have all the traits to be self-actualized, and not only self-actualized people will do so.